Let those prepositions dangle!

With plenty of Christmas shopping to do, the post today will be short, but still sweet.   

There has been a prevailing myth among English grammarians that prepositions should never be split from their objects, that it is always incorrect to end a sentence with a ”dangling“ preposition. I remember a graduate professor scolding me for ending one of the sentences in my thesis with a preposition. I, of course, reworded the sentence because I wanted a good grade on my thesis.

But there really was no need to do that!

It is perfectly fine to end sentences with a preposition (as long as the sentence makes sense). The only time it is not good is when it is an extraneous preposition. If a preposition adds nothing to the meaning of the sentence it can be edited out. 

It can be somewhat arduous and downright awkward (not to mention unnecessary) to rewrite a sentence simply to avoid ending a sentence with preposition. Let’s take a few examples. The first sentence in each of the three examples has the preposition at the end, while the second sentence has the preposition in a supposedly more grammatically correct spot.


Where did your friends come from? (sounds good)


From where did your friends come? (Ew!)


Tom had a great talk with Mr. Arndt, whose daughter he was studying Spanish with. (flows nicely)


Sam had a great talk with Mrs. Smith, with whose daughter he was studying Spanish. (Ew!)


Dont worry, honey; you have nothing to be afraid of! (nice)


Don’t worry honey; you have nothing of which to be afraid! (For this one, we have to add the relative pronoun ”which” to function as the object of the preposition “of.”) This one merits a double Ew!

The first sentence in each pair sounds natural and is perfectly correct. The second sentences, on the other hand, sound pedantic and stilted. They may be correct, but no one talks like that!

One situation where it is better to not use the preposition at the end of a sentence is a different animal. This one has to do with the fact that using the active voice is preferable to the passive voice.

Passive constructions that use ending prepositions can sometimes be rewritten in the active voice to avoid those dangling prepositions at the end of the sentence. It’s not that using the passive voice is incorrect. Placing the emphasis on the subject of the sentence makes it more straightforward and concise. And, well, active!

Some examples:

I wonder who this movie was directed by. (passive construction)

I wonder who directed this movie. (active voice without the preposition)

As difficult as it is, the problem is being dealt with. (passive construction)

As difficult as it is, we are dealing with the problem. (rewritten using the active voice)

I guess I shouldn’t be so hard on my professors. There are times when avoiding dangling prepositions is preferable (as in academics or a business proposal). But for most writing, you’ll come out fine and dandy if you simply place the preposition where it sounds natural.

David Rochelero